Google CEO Sundar Pichai abruptly canceled a company-wide town-hall meeting Thursday to address the diversity memo controversy, telling employees that safety concerns had forced him to pull the plug on the event less than two hours before it was to begin.
Some Google employees expressed concerns ahead of the town hall that they’d be “outed” online and feared for their safety, Pichai wrote in an email calling off the meeting.
Pichai and other members of Google’s leadership team were scheduled to take questions about the controversy sparked by a Google engineer’s memo about the company’s diversity practices. The memo, and the company’s reaction to it, have foist Google into the national spotlight at a time of heightened political tensions around issues like diversity.
The engineer, James Damore, was fired on Monday after writing an internal memo accusing Google of holding a left-wing, progressive bias and taking issue with the effectiveness of its main diversity programs. Among the most controversial claims in the memo were Damore’s arguments that biological differences may account for the lack of women in high tech jobs.
The memo caused outrage among many Google employees as well as observers outside Google. But Google’s decision to fire Damore caused an almost immediate reaction among other groups, turning Google into the latest front in the national discord between the political right and left.
Damore has since become a cause celebre among right-wing news outlets, who say he is a victim of liberal intolerance.
Google’s town hall meeting was supposed to take place at 4 p.m. Pacific Thursday. Pichai and other members of Google’s leadership team were scheduled to take questions employees submitted through an online tool called Dory.
Pichai’s memo, which was sent to Business Insider about an hour and a half before the town hall was about to start, said some of the questions employees submitted leaked publicly and individuals were identified. Some employees expressed concerns ahead of the town hall that they’d be “outed” online and feared for their safety, he said.
Wired published some of the questions that employees submitted through Dory on Thursday. CNN did as well. Other websites and videos on YouTube have listed Google employees by name along with their internal responses to Damore’s memo, political leanings, sexual orientations, and other personal info. It’s a shocking, disgusting response.
Pichai said there will be alternative forums for Google employees to discuss the issues brought up in Damore’s manifesto soon.
You can read the full memo here:
TL;DR Sorry for the late notice but we are going to cancel today’s Town Hall.
We had hoped to have a frank, open discussion today as we always do to bring us together and move forward. But our Dory questions appeared externally this afternoon, and on some websites Googlers are now being named personally. Googlers are writing in, concerned about their safety and worried they may be “outed” publicly for asking a question in the Town Hall.
In recognition of Googlers’ concerns, we need to step back and create a better set of conditions for us to have the discussion. So in the coming days we will find several forums to gather and engage with Googlers, where people can feel comfortable to speak freely. We’ll share details soon.
Over the past two days, I have had the chance to meet with so many people here, and I have read each of your emails carefully. The vast majority of you are very supportive of our decision. A smaller percentage of you wish we would do more. And some are worried that you cannot speak out at work freely. All of your voices and opinions matter… and I want to hear them.
In the meantime, let’s not forget what unites us as a company – our desire to build great products for everyone that make a big difference in their lives. I have been in a few product discussions today and felt energized by the important things we are working on. We can, and will continue, to come together to do the very best for the people we serve.
This story is developing…